National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

Reclaiming My Life
By Adam Bretag

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My illness began maybe 20-25 years ago I just didn't know it at the time. It was not until in college while playing Division 1 Baseball that some of the behaviors started to become more prevalent. I still didn't know it but I started to become addicted to exercise, thinking that if I was running or working out it was for a career in baseball. After baseball ended, I started to search for something that would allow me to exercise and use the excuse that I am “training” for a specific event. I turned to triathlons and at first I loved it. But I began engaging in extreme behaviors and the following mornings would become angry and depressed about my actions and use behaviors to bring some satisfaction back to me. Day by day this is how I lived; I would never take a day off. During all this I became so obsessed with these behaviors that I destroyed friendships, and family ties-pulling me deeper and deeper into my disease. In 2005 I injured my back at work, this sent me into a tail spin and engaging in eating disordered behaviors was all I cared about. I would take Advil, aspirin and pain killers to get through the day, and in 2006 I ended up with an ulcer and had to get a blood transfusion. At this point I tried to talk about my illness with others and even tried to go to support groups but it did nothing. In 2007 I engaged in a behavior that almost killed me. My dad then took me to the ER where they started and IV and began a workup on me only telling me they don't see much but they are going to admit me. As they wheeled me upstairs and were transferring me into another bed I passed out on the floor and the next thing I remember is the ER trauma team working on me, soon I was in the Cardiac Care Unit. I was lying to others about my ED, saying I am getting better or was going to get better. In 2008 I had major Back surgery (fused), I filed for bankruptcy, and my home was foreclosed on. This created even more stress and increased my ED behaviors. At the end of 2008, I went to a Dr. and I saw my weight on the scale; this sent me tumbling into my Anorexia. As I continued to get worse I finally made the decision to get help, but getting into treatment took 6 months because of no insurance and no extra finances, but I was finally admitted to an inpatient facility. I went into the inpatient hospital and unfortunately insurance kicked me out. I think I struggled even more after the hospital; because I felt like if I don't get better there will not be other chances. So I struggled and fought with family and therapy and Dr.'s and taking medications. I eventually just got tired of fighting it and became determined to beat my ED. With constant therapy and talking about my behaviors, no more lies, I eventually started to make gradual improvements. I started finding and looking for other hobbies, I returned to school last Spring to get my Master’s degree in Emergency Management and then in May I found a church. I finally found that missing link, of putting God ahead of my disease. I finally felt like I was getting better almost 3 years after getting out of the hospital. I joined a program through Church, called Refuge; I am the only person recovering with an eating disorder, as it is a program for recovering addicts. I don't care that I am the only one I know I have to speak up for the men who are afraid of talking about it or deny the fact that I have an ED. I want to say it is okay; really it is, to all those men suffering. I live in the south; I am a male with an ED. I am definitely in the minority in this region of the country, but if more men would speak up and talk about it then maybe one day it will be a topic of discussion. It really gets labeled and misunderstood, as I have noticed with those in Refuge. They do not have a clue about men having an Eating Disorder; I guess that is why I am there to help them to better understand the disease. For me recovery is a feeling of freedom, there is no more carrying the burden of continued behaviors. I think at some point you come to the realization that I am definitely better and I have not lived a healthy life in so long, I am looking forward to further restoring my health in time. I can openly talk to others about truly being better, holding on to the illness even if it is the smallest part allows you the excuse to fall back and become engaged in the ED, let go of that. My recovery doesn’t allow for that choice, as I talk about my recovery and my future plans. I know there is no future without recovery and know it is up to myself to keep moving forward and to help others.

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